Marine and Wildlife Conservation
Every turtle species that inhabits the African coastline faces pressure from humans, and their survival is under threat. Five out of the seven global species of turtle visit our island: critically endangered leatherbacks, endangered hawksbill and green turtles, plus vulnerable loggerheads and olive ridleys.
We aim to establish projects that address the threats and put measures in place to protect and conserve our marine life.
In Mozambique, these are the organisations making waves in marine conservation:
Fire Island Turtle Protection Program
Marine Mega-Fauna Foundation
Maputo Special Reserve Turtle Monitoring & Protection Program
Centro Terra Viva – Turtle Tagging & Tracking
Threats to Marine Conservation
Poaching is a very delicate issue here in Mozambique. Despite turtles being legally protected, many local communities kill turtles for subsistence. With growing human populations and declining natural fish resources, the consumption of turtle meat and harvesting of their eggs is unsustainable.
There is also a market for turtle shell products. Hawksbills, in particular, have been hunted for their shells for centuries. This critically endangered species was assigned the highest level of protection in 1997, by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However, there is still a black market trade for their shells, which are smuggled to the Far East.
Many of the areas where turtles are killed are so remote, local authorities do not have the resources to enforce the law
At least eight million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. This contributes to an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic in surface waters, and at least 14 million tons of microplastics on the ocean floor.
A floating plastic bag is often mistaken for jellyfish or algae, which make up a sizable component of a sea turtle’s diet. When a turtle unwittingly swallows a plastic bag, it can block its intestines, which disrupts the turtle’s ability to feed, leaving them to starve.
Microplastics were found in the guts of every sea turtle, in a study in 2018. The most common plastics found derived from tires, cigarettes, clothing, ropes and fishing nets. It is not yet known what damage is caused to the turtles from microplastics, but it is known that plastic carries chemical toxins, and can affect the turtles buoyancy.
Gillnets, shrimp trawl nets and longline hooks pose a massive threat to turtles. Hundreds of thousands of them are caught as bycatch each year. Both the legal traditional and commercial fisheries, and the illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries, impact sea turtles.
Sadly, due to lack of funding and government apathy for the marine environment, the scale of the threats from fishing is mostly data deficient.
We have a number of conservation actions that we are aiming to achieve through our campaigns.
- Supplying local authorities with boats and vehicles to ensure there is a regular presence in remote areas, and to help them carry out law enforcement.
- Transforming the poachers into protectors:
- Locals who, in the past, were turtle harvesters, will be trained as turtle monitors and guides.
- Maputo Special Reserve will carry out training, emulating their successful community-driven turtle conservation program.